Da Bathala Code


Da Bathala Code
Da Bathala Code
Part 1: Do baybayin letters hold hidden meanings?!
Bathala and the baybayin!
Letters as pictures!
What if Tagalog people really designed the baybayin? !
What is the documentary evidence? !
Part 2: Guillermo Tolentino & the baybayin script!
Whose idea was this, anyway? !
Guillermo Tolentino!
Spooky source of information!
Part 3: Pedro Paterno’s Grand Illusion!
Pedro Paterno!
Inventing a religion!
The Bathala Code!
Part 4: Paterno and his critics!
Paterno’s critics!
Paterno’s defence!
What did ancient Filipinos really believe? !
Ancient connections!
Inventing history!
Sources & Notes!
The Pilipino Express
June 16 - 30, 2009
Vol. 5 No. 12
Da Bathala Code
Part 1: Do baybayin letters hold hidden meanings?
For many people, their
first acquaintance with the
old Filipino script known as
baybayin is like discovering a
magic code that can unlock
ancient secrets, as in so many
fantasy movies. At least,
that’s what it was like for me.
For many of us, who only
know the Roman alphabet,
the letters do look strange
and exotic, and it is often this
attracts us to the script.
This is the most common style of baybayin
writing shown in some school history
books. It was designed for a Spanish
printing press in the early 1600s. Some
baybayin enthusiasts unknowingly use
fonts like this to divine hidden meanings in
the letter shapes, unaware that the shapes
have been modified and influenced by the
Roman alphabet. Note the distinctive V and
3 used for the letter SA.
However, baybayin writing
is more significant – or at
least, it should be – because it is not part of a mere fantasy; it is
the heritage of the Filipino people. After centuries of being
regarded as little more than savages under the Spanish regime,
then as backward “little brown brothers” under the Americans,
most Filipinos are proud, and rightly so, when they discover
that their pre-colonial ancestors were, in fact, highly literate.
Da Bathala Code • Part 1 • Paul Morrow
For some baybayin enthusiasts, however, this is not enough.
A few Internet web sites promote theories that baybayin letters
have deeper, mysterious meanings beyond being just graphic
representations of the spoken word. Until recently, the lack of
easy access to comprehensive factual information about
baybayin writing has allowed several authors to embellish the
known facts with alleged revelations of spiritual meanings held
within the shapes of baybayin characters.
Bathala and the baybayin
The promoters of this idea – that there are hidden meanings
in the shapes of baybayin letters – usually start their revelations
with the word bathala (pronounced bat-hala), which is the name
of the pre-colonial Tagalog god of creation. In baybayin writing,
Bathala looks like this:
b h l
The very nature of God is supposedly revealed in its
baybayin spelling with the concepts of femininity, masculinity,
creation and divine inspiration all contained in the shapes of
the letters. The b (ba) is said to represent the female aspect of
creation because it is the first letter in the Tagalog word babae
(woman) and its shape is supposed to mimic the genitals of a
woman. Similarly, the l (la) represents the male aspect because
lalaki (man) starts with the letter L, which, apparently, is penisshaped. These two concepts are united by the letter h (ha),
which represents the divine breath (hininga) or wind (hangin)
that gives life to the spirits of women and men. If the
letter t (ta) is erroneously inserted into the baybayin spelling
of Bathala, it symbolizes a spark or a bolt of lightning from God
that ignites the human spirit – or something like that.
Da Bathala Code • Part 1 • Paul Morrow
Like Dan Brown’s best-selling novel and blockbuster movie
with a similar title, this “Bathala Code,” as I like to call it, is
very enticing, pretty far-fetched and uses dubious scholarship
to dress up what is basically a fantasy. The details can vary
widely since each believer often likes to insert his or her own
alleged discoveries based on superficial observations of
unrelated religions and New Age philosophies.
Most Bathala Code believers, however, share at least two
major assumptions in their theory. The first assumption is that
the supposed Bathala-baybayin connection was a spiritual
belief held by all pre-colonial Filipinos, even though it is based
on three Tagalog words and the name of a deity that only the
Tagalogs and Zambals worshiped as their creator god. 1 The
other assumption, of course, is the very premise that baybayin
letter shapes are really pictures that have meanings beyond
the sounds they represent.
Letters as pictures
But are the shapes meaningless? It’s safe to say that almost
all non-pictographic writing systems in the world have origins
that can be traced back to predecessors that were pictographic.
Our Roman letter A, for instance, is said to have descended
from an Egyptian hieroglyph that was a picture of an ox. It
doesn’t look much like an ox today and it’s not even used to
spell “ox” in English – nor should it because our alphabet is
not an invention of the English or even the ancient Romans.
The current shapes of our letters are the result of an
evolutionary process that took thousands of years and
involved several intermediate writing systems and spoken
languages including Latin, Ancient Greek, Etruscan,
Phoenician, two Middle Eastern alphabets and a simplified
form of the original Egyptian hieroglyphs. 2 But, the letter A
just means “A” to us now. Similarly, predecessors of baybayin
letters might have once had pictographic meanings, but they
certainly had no relationship with any Tagalog words.
Da Bathala Code • Part 1 • Paul Morrow
What if Tagalog people really designed the baybayin?
Many pictographic interpretations rely on very specific
details of how baybayin letters are drawn, but these details can
vary greatly, or even disappear, depending on which specimen
of baybayin writing is examined. The letter b (ba) for example
was often written as an ordinary circle. The l (la) often had
straight lines and looked like a T. The modern Bathala theories
are not based on interpretations of the way that the people of
Luzon or the Visayas actually wrote five centuries ago. Most of
the common historic styles of the baybayin that we know today
were actually typefaces that were originally designed for
Spanish printing presses. Nobody knows exactly what the
earliest baybayin looked like because the oldest surviving
specimen was made on a Spanish printing press in 1593. It begs
the question, how do Bathala Code believers know that they are
interpreting the correct shapes?
Even if the baybayin letter shapes that we know today were
100% faithful to a pre-colonial Tagalog model, there is no
evidence that the Tagalog designers based them on the things
we might think they did. For example, the letter b could stand
for bato (stone) as well as for babae or any of a hundred other Bwords. Even if we grant that the letters of Bathala look vaguely
like a vagina, the wind and a penis, is this really any more
significant than noticing that dog spelled backwards is god?
While it is highly improbable that the words babae, hangin
and lalaki were derived from Bathala, it is even more absurd to
claim that Bathala was formed from those Tagalog words since
the name Bathala is derived from the Indian Sanskrit word
bhattara, meaning “lord,” 3 which has derivatives in many
languages throughout India, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Da Bathala Code • Part 1 • Paul Morrow
On a more practical level – if some pre-colonial people in
the Philippines really did design the baybayin with a
profound metaphysical meaning in mind for every single
letter shape, then why did they not also think of a way to
write consonants without vowels? Even the word bathala must
lose the letter T in its baybayin spelling – otherwise it would
be mispronounced as ba-ta-ha-la. This “lone consonant”
problem is one of the best clues (along with some anecdotal
evidence 4) that the baybayin was imported to the Philippines
and not invented there. Had the Roman alphabet not come
along so soon, it is quite likely that Filipinos would have
eventually adapted the baybayin better for their own
languages. Since the baybayin script and the word bathala did
not originate in the Philippines, there is no reason to believe
that the letter shapes should be based on any Tagalog words.
What is the documentary evidence?
Early colonial Spanish authors wrote quite a bit about the
baybayin. They learned to write it and they used it to print
books that would serve to convert Filipinos to Christianity.
They also studied the religions of all the various language and
ethnic groups under their control and they knew the names of
the local deities. None of these things were kept secret from
the Spanish religious orders and yet, they never reported
anything about special meanings in the shapes of the baybayin
letters. Certainly, if any Spanish friar had thought for a second
that he was duped into drawing “smutty” pictures in his
religious texts, there would have been hell to pay. Perhaps the
wholesale burning of all baybayin documents would have
really happened – but that is another common fallacy about
the baybayin. 5
So where did all these alleged revelations about Bathala
and the baybayin come from? We’ll talk about some of the
contributors to this “Bathala Code” and meet its creator in the
next three parts of this series.
The Pilipino Express
July 1 - 15, 2009
Vol. 5 No. 13
Da Bathala Code
Part 2: Guillermo Tolentino & the baybayin script
Last time, we were talking
about the pre-colonial Filipino
syllabic alphabet and about the
ancient, secret meanings that are
supposedly held within the
shapes of its baybayin letters.
These alleged revelations focus
on the word bathala – the name
of the pre-colonial Tagalog god
of creation – which is said to
contain the concepts of male,
female and the divine because
its baybayin spelling has letters
that apparently look like a
Guillermo Tolentino invented “hidden”
vagina, the wind and a penis.
meanings for all the baybayin letters,
embellishing the fantasy of a 19th
century author – photo from Wikipedia
b h l
According to Bathala Code believers, these three baybayin
letters, b h l, acquired their shapes because they represent
the first syllables in the Tagalog words, babae, hangin and lalaki,
respectively – though some speculate that the letters came first
and the words came from the letters! Then, extending an
already tenuous premise, they are somehow certain that, of all
the Tagalog words that contain any of these syllables, it is these
Da Bathala Code • Part 2 • Paul Morrow
three that either came together to form Bathala, or were derived
from Bathala. Conflicting theories about every other letter of the
baybayin script have also been conjured from these improbable
Whose idea was this, anyway?
So where did these purported revelations about Bathala and
the baybayin come from and who is promoting them today?
Although none of the current authors who cover the subject on
the Internet cite an ultimate source for their information, their
inspiration is most likely a coil-bound manual by the composer
Bayani Mendoza de Leon, Baybayin, The Ancient Script of the
Philippines. 6 It is currently the easiest book to find that contains
these ideas, although it is more about de Leon’s own
modernized baybayin than it is about the ancient script. Several
phrases from it appear without citation at Mary Ann Ubaldo’s
Urduja.com, 7 which was probably the earliest web site to
promote the supposed spiritual aspects of baybayin writing.
Perla Daly, another Bathala Code believer who has
influenced some baybayin enthusiasts, credits Ubaldo for her
epiphany and has added her own embellishments to support
her New Age theories about Filipino spirituality in an on-line
document, Bahala Meditations. 8
Although Bayani de Leon is apparently the current source of
these mystical theories, he did not invent them. In the preface to
his manual, de Leon enthusiastically quoted from a 1972 article
by Guillermo Tolentino, which he described as “an eye-opening
exposition on the pictographic significance of each character in
the Filipino ancient script.” In total, he presented Tolentino’s
“illuminating insights” for ten of the 17 letters of the baybayin. 9
So how did Tolentino discover these secrets of the baybayin?
Da Bathala Code • Part 2 • Paul Morrow
Guillermo Tolentino
Guillermo Tolentino was a National Artist for Sculpture who
passed away in 1976. He was famous for such works as the
Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan, Metro Manila and the
Oblation statue, symbol of the University of the Philippines.
Among his many talents and interests, he was also considered a
baybayin expert. He first published his ideas about hidden
meanings in baybayin letters in his 1937 book, Ang Wika at
Baybaying Tagalog (The Tagalog Language and Baybayin). Here,
Tolentino expounded on diverse subjects ranging from
astronomy to zoology in order to advance his belief in the
superiority of the Tagalog language and culture.
For Tolentino, finding Tagalog words like babae, hangin and
lalaki inside a Sanskrit-derived word like bathala, or claiming
that they were the basis of letter shapes in an imported script,
was not a logical problem at all because he believed that
Tagalog culture predated most civilizations in Asia and the
world. According to him, the Tagalog language and its script
did not share a common source with any other culture, nor did
it borrow from any other culture because Tagalog was 2000
years older than Sanskrit and it was the source of this ancient,
sacred language of India, as well as most of the other languages
of Southeast Asia. 10 This would have made Tagalog about 5,500
years old and possibly the oldest living language in the world.
Tolentino made incredible claims like this throughout his
book, supporting them with misused quotes from sources both
reliable and dubious. Many of his theories were based on
nothing more than coincidental similarities between Tagalog
words and foreign words. In one attempt to demonstrate the far
reaching influence of the Tagalog language, he casually
maligned an entire nation:
Da Bathala Code • Part 2 • Paul Morrow
Even the name of that island Madagascar is a stupid
corruption (pagagong tawag) of the correct Tagalog
“magdaragat” (mariner), and because of a natural fondness for
drinking alcohol, the people are usually drunk (mga lasing),
thus [they are called] Malagasi. 11
In some cases, Tolentino didn’t even bother to dig for
phoney evidence. To explain the origin of baybayin writing, he
simply conjured a fable about a Tagalog poet named Katalon
who invented the script so that he could give his poems to Bai,
the most beautiful lady in his town – in the year 600 BCE! 12
Spooky source of information
One source of Tolentino’s absurd theories, which he did not
mention in his 1937 book, was the supernatural. He was an avid
practitioner of the occult and one of the founders of the Unión
Espiritista Cristiana de Filipinas Inc. He often hosted meetings of
the group in his home, which included, faith healing, speaking
in tongues and séances. On at least one occasion, he tapped this
spooky source for information about the ancient script.
In the early 1960s, the National Museum of the Philippines
asked Tolentino to decipher the writing on a pot discovered in
Calatagan, Batangas. Nobody could figure out the meaning of
its possibly pre-colonial inscription but Tolentino managed to
divine its secret. When asked how he did it, he said that he
contacted the spirit of the long-departed potter in a séance and
simply asked him what he wrote on the now-famous Calatagan
Pot. 13 Needless to say, Tolentino’s interpretation was ignored
and that inscription is still considered undeciphered to this day.
Guillermo Tolentino invented meanings for all the baybayin
letters, but even with his supernatural connections, he was not
the first to “discover” the Bathala Code. In his introduction to
Da Bathala Code • Part 2 • Paul Morrow
that section of the book, Tolentino revealed that he had no real
source for most of his information, but he did acknowledge the
originator of the Bathala-baybayin notion. He wrote:
…why the shapes [of the letters] became like that, not even
one historian, linguist or palaeographer has been able to give a
certain or even superficial explanation. Nobody has even been
able to write about the meaning and form that was imitated by
the various shapes of the letters of the Tagalog baybayin other
than the late Pedro A. Paterno and Lope K. Santos. Even these
two gentlemen described nothing except B H L of Bathala, by
the former, and U H A, or the cry of a new-born child, by the
latter. That’s it – just three letters from each and nothing more.
To put it simply, where the previous writers finished is where
we begin with other things that are connected but hidden from
the awareness of the general public. 14
In the next part of this series, we’ll meet the real inventor of
the Bathala Code – the notorious Pedro Alexandro Molo
Agustin Paterno y de Vera Ignacio, Maguinoo [Lord] Paterno.
Tolentino’s chart showing his “original meanings” of all the baybayin letters – from
Ang Wika at Baybaying Tagalog
The Pilipino Express
July 16 - 31, 2009
Vol. 5 No. 14
Da Bathala Code
Part 3: Pedro Paterno’s Grand Illusion
In this series of articles we
have been talking about
something I call the Bathala
Code. This is the idea that the
old Filipino writing system,
called the baybayin, contains
secret meanings hidden in the
shapes of its characters –
meanings beyond just the
sounds that they represent.
Even though there is no
evidence to support this theory,
a few people today are adopting
it as the basis of what they call a
“rediscovery” of ancient Filipino
Pedro Paterno, the originator of the
spirituality. The Bathala Code is Bathala-baybayin notion, 1906 photo.
not a new idea but, as we’ll see, it is by no means an ancient
one, either.
As we saw last time, the sculptor and spiritualist Guillermo
Tolentino invented more bogus meanings for baybayin letters
than anyone else, back in 1937. He credited two other men for
what he considered to be only minor contributions to his
interpretations. One of them was his contemporary, Lope K.
Da Bathala Code • Part 3 • Paul Morrow
Santos, who was a highly respected writer and author of the
first official grammar of the national language. Santos
speculated on the word uha (cry of a newborn baby) as the basis
for the shapes of the letters U (u), h (ha) and A (a). However,
neither Tolentino nor Santos could claim to have discovered the
Bathala Code. They merely embellished the ideas of another
pseudo-ethnographer from a generation before them – Pedro
Pedro Paterno
Fifty years before Tolentino wrote his Ang Wika at Baybaying
Tagalog, Pedro Paterno wrote La antigua civilización tagalog in
1887, 15 followed by several other books on Filipino ethnology.
These were hardly a small influence on Tolentino’s far-fetched
theories; they were probably some of his main inspirations, if
not his virtual blueprint. Like Tolentino, Paterno tried to
legitimize some really outrageous claims with questionable
scholarship and outright fabrications, as we’ll see, but more
than that, he himself played a prominent role during a crucial
period of Philippine history. He is a fascinating character who
deserves much more scrutiny than is possible in this series of
articles. For more information about the infamous political
career of Pedro Paterno, I recommend the book Brains of the
Nation 16 by Resil Mojares.
Inventing a religion
Although Paterno was the originator of the Bathala-baybayin
notion, it was not the main focus of La antigua civilización
tagalog. Like many Filipino writers of his time, his aim was to
show that Filipinos were capable of taking part in the
governing of their own country under Spanish rule. But unlike
the other Propagandists, as they were called, Paterno was a
Da Bathala Code • Part 3 • Paul Morrow
conservative Catholic and an ardent supporter of the Spanish
regime. He saw Christianity as the highest form of religion and
Spain as the embodiment of the highest form of culture and
civilization. Through his improbable analysis of history and
language, he tried to prove that, even before Spain made first
contact in the 1500s, the ancient Tagalogs were already
“Spaniards at heart,” as the historian John Schumacher phrased
it in his book The Making of a Nation. 17 What’s more, they even
practiced an organized religion that was practically Christianity
but with another name. Paterno called this religion Tagalismo
and Bathalismo, and it had everything from a creation myth very
much like the Garden of Eden story to elements such as priests,
bishops, Holy Communion, Confession, a Holy Trinity, a virgin
birth and a prophet named Anac Hala who was the son of the
creator Bathala.
To support his incredible claims, Paterno would ferret out
obscure words, like bathala, and often break them down to their
basic syllables and letters. He would make irrelevant
comparisons and emphasize chance similarities of these
elements with words, concepts and personalities from other
civilizations around the world – just as Guillermo Tolentino
would do half a century later. Resil Mojares showed throughout
his essay how Paterno would freely distort facts and selectively
mine his sources, ignoring anything that did not fit his theories.
And, of course, Paterno would also just “make up stuff.”
While Tolentino had his baseless origin story for the baybayin
script, Paterno had one for his Bathalismo religion. In Paterno’s
story – which he said an “ancient Tagalog” had told him – a
virgin named Daga was impregnated by a ray of sunlight.
When her father discovered the pregnancy, he angrily wrote her
name in the baybayin script and inserted the “male” letter l
Da Bathala Code • Part 3 • Paul Morrow
(la), changing her name to Dalaga and thus creating the Tagalog
word meaning “young unmarried woman.” Dalaga gave birth
to a son who began to perform miracles at the age of 12, thus
founding the religion of Bathalismo. 18
The Bathala Code
The baybayin script was an integral part of Paterno’s grand
illusion of Bathalismo. He said, “In this story or tradition of the
word dalaga we see the foundation of Bathalismo.” 19 And it was
also here in La antigua civilización tagalog that Paterno laid out
the very premise of the Bathala Code:
The word baybayin comes from baibai or babai, or babae,
which means female or generator, represented by the figure b,
an imitation of the external shape of the female genital organ,
just as the character l corresponding to the Latin letter L, is a
sign of lalaque (male) and is a drawing or copy of the male
sexual organ. 20
In the Tagalog script, the H is written imitating the zigzag
ray that, loosed from high Heaven, illuminates the dark Earth,
thus: h. 21
Now then; in the Old Tagalog writing of the name of God,
bhl, it is observed that the first letter b, symbolizing the
Woman, and the third l symbolizing Man, are united by h
the light, spirit, symbol of God. 22
The signs bl of female and male, united by h, the symbol
of light, form the name of God bhl (Bathala), which means
Generator or Creator of all that exists in the Universe. 23
Da Bathala Code • Part 3 • Paul Morrow
This is the ultimate source of the Bathala-baybayin
connection, which believers claim is a link to the ancient
wisdom of their distant pre-colonial ancestors – but it was all
simply fabricated by Pedro Paterno in 1887.
Even from its beginnings we can see the inconsistencies of
the theory emerging. Where Paterno saw a bolt of lightning in
the letter h (ha), Tolentino chose to see the wind. Even Paterno
contradicted himself elsewhere in his book by saying that h
(ha) represented “the breath of life” and that l (la) was a
variation of ra, which in the name Bathala, alluded to none
other than Ra, the sun-god of ancient Egypt! It just goes to show
that when fantasy replaces reason, we can see anything we
want in random shapes and find mystical connections
In the final part of our series on the Bathala Code, we’ll hear
what some of Pedro Paterno’s contemporaries, like Jose Rizal,
thought of his outlandish theories, and how Paterno defended
The Pilipino Express
August 1 - 15, 2009
Vol. 5 No. 15
Da Bathala Code
Part 4: Paterno and his critics
Pedro Paterno was the
originator of the
Bathala Code
Jose Rizal thought
Paterno was “loopy,” but
he didn’t say it in words
T.H. Pardo de Tavera
was one of Paterno’s
harshest critics
In the previous article of this series we met Pedro Paterno,
the man who originated the notion that there are hidden
meanings in the shapes of the letters of the old Filipino
baybayin script, specifically, in the letters that spell Bathala, the
name of the ancient Tagalog god of creation.
Paterno was a self-styled renaissance man. He wrote
fiction, poetry, stage plays and operas. He was educated in
philosophy and theology, and he held a doctorate in law. He
also wrote several books on Filipino ethnology, including La
antigua civilización tagalog, the book in which he first imagined
the Bathala-baybayin connection, which some people today
misconstrue as a real part of ancient Filipino spirituality. But,
as we saw last time, his research methods were quite eccentric,
to put it mildly.
Da Bathala Code • Part 4 • Paul Morrow
Paterno’s critics
By today’s standards of scholarship, Pedro Paterno would
probably flunk a legitimate history course and his ideas about
the ancient Philippines were not taken seriously in his own
time, either. Jose Rizal, no less, wrote the following in a letter to
his friend, the ethnologist Ferdinand Blumentritt:
In regard to the work of my countryman P.A. Paterno on
Bathalà, I tell you, pay no attention to it; P.A. Paterno is like
this: [here Rizal drew a line with a series of loops]. I can
find no word for it, but only a sign like this: [more loops]. 24
Excerpt from Rizal’s letter to Blumentritt, handwritten in German
If there were any doubt about what Rizal meant, some of his
contemporaries were much more direct about the “loopy”
Paterno. Resil Mojares quoted some of them in his book Brains
of the Nation:
T.H. Pardo de Tavera regarded Paterno’s scholarship with
scorn. He called him a plagiarist, and “vulgar imposter” who
made false claims about his sources and advertised non-existent
books among his works. He dismissed Antigua Civilizacion as
“a work of pure fantasy full of extraneous and incredible
Da Bathala Code • Part 4 • Paul Morrow
assertions.” He judged Los Itas a book of “buffooneries” and
Cristianismo en la Antigua Civilizacion Tagalog a piece of
work “full of surprises for history, science and reason!”…While
acknowledging the labor that went into Paterno’s books,
[Wenceslao Retana] rejected their arguments as “the dreamy
fantasy of a poet” devoid of all “scientific value.” 25
Paterno’s defence
In an 1892 issue of La Solidaridad, Paterno defended his
imagined pre-colonial religion, which he called Bathalismo, by
saying, in essence, that his critics had not done their homework:
Some have taken the interpretations I give of Bathala as
products of my imagination and that I, according to them, wish
to inject into simple letters entire phrases of profound ideas.
However, such critics, no matter how respectable they are,
doubtless ignore the primitive oriental languages and, in this
instance, the Tagalog language, in the roots of which are
preserved, on the whole, the purity of the elements of the most
ancient ones; or perhaps the first words of the language of man,
elements religiously preserved by generations of Tagalogs. 26
Pedro Paterno was not trained in linguistics or philology
and, according to Resil Mojares, he could not even speak
Tagalog passably. According to Paterno, the Tagalogs had
“religiously preserved” elements of the most ancient languages
in the world and yet, in the 1880s, the name Bathala, which he
was interpreting, was virtually unknown to all but a few
scholars. In Rizal’s letter to Blumentritt, quoted earlier, Rizal
said that he “was surprised that no Tagalog knew about the
word Bathala” and that “the word Bathala might also have
disappeared on account of the Christian religion.” 27
Da Bathala Code • Part 4 • Paul Morrow
If Filipino scholars of Paterno’s time ignored his evidence, it
was simply because it was so obviously absurd. Since then,
generations of historians, linguists, anthropologists, archaeologists and other scientists have done much more research,
refined their techniques and, in the process, discredited many
theories that were once thought to be true. None of them ever
found a scrap of evidence that happened to support Paterno’s
preposterous claims.
What did ancient Filipinos really believe?
This is not to say that pre-colonial Filipinos had no religious
traditions and mythologies of their own. In fact, they had many
more deities and myths than Paterno imagined in his pseudoChristian, Tagalog-centric fantasies of the land he called
Luzonica, which was his name for the ancient Philippines. (He
also believed that he himself belonged to the nobility of this
ancient kingdom.) In reality, pre-colonial Filipinos were mainly
animists, meaning that they believed certain trees, rocks,
animals and natural phenomena possessed souls and they
revered them as gods. The names of these gods varied from
place to place but only the Tagalogs and the Zambals
recognized a creator god named Bathala, while the approximate
counterpart in the Visayas was known as Laon. 28
As in other cultures around the world, many pre-colonial
Filipinos also worshipped the sun, as Paterno claimed.
However, this is not a unique belief. The sun is probably the
most obvious thing in nature to worship. As such, this hardly
qualifies as a Filipino connection to Ra, the ancient Egyptian
sun god, as Paterno had claimed. A good overview of precolonial beliefs can be found in William H. Scott’s Barangay,
Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society.
Da Bathala Code • Part 4 • Paul Morrow
Ancient connections
It is true that at least one far-away ancient civilization –
other than China – did have some influence on pre-colonial
Filipino culture. Many words found in the languages of the
Philippines, such as bathala and diwata (meaning god and
goddess), were derived from the Sanskrit language of India.
However, these words were likely brought to the Philippines
through trade contacts with Malays, and not brought directly
from India. Hinduism was one of the religions practiced in the
Malay Archipelago before the population began to convert to
Islam in the 13th and 14th centuries.
It is also likely that the baybayin writing system was
derived from Indian writing but like the Sanskrit loan words,
it was not a direct import. It came to the Philippines via the
writing systems of the Malay Archipelago. (See my online
article, Baybayin, the Ancient Script of the Philippines.)
Even so, the Indian influence on ancient Philippine society
might have been deeper than even Pedro Paterno realized. The
discovery of the Laguna Copperplate Inscription in the late 1980s
revealed a language that might have been spoken in Luzon in
the year 900 CE, which had many more Sanskrit words than
modern Philippine languages have. It is not known how
widespread this language was and, unfortunately for Paterno,
the inscription was not written in the baybayin script, which
in his imagination illustrated the essence of Bathala. It was
written in the Kavi script of Java, which not only pre-dated the
baybayin, but was also more technically advanced than the
baybayin. (See The Beginning of Philippine History.)
Da Bathala Code • Part 4 • Paul Morrow
Inventing history
Inventing history is not unique in the Philippines. All
nations have at least a few manufactured legends that their
citizens believe to be true. Pedro Paterno might simply have
been the first in the long line of modern Filipino pseudohistorians who still to try to remedy the loss of so much of their
own culture during the Spanish era by inventing a glorious
ancient past for the Philippines, rather than doing serious
research. Understandably, regional and national pride plays an
important part in their efforts and one common element in
these inventions is to draw as many connections as possible to
other ancient civilizations, as though this somehow validates
Filipino culture and heritage. However, this kind of invented
history is unnecessary because legitimate scholars and scientists
continue to uncover the truly unique heritage of the diverse
cultures that make up the Philippines today. Pre-colonial
Filipinos did have a rich spiritual heritage but, for the most
part, they kept it alive through oral traditions. Eventually, it
was recorded in Spanish-authored chronicles and dictionaries
(biased as they were), but it was not hidden in the shapes of
baybayin letters.
These and other articles by Paul Morrow can be found at
www.pilipino-express.com. Also visit Sarisari etc. for more
about Filipino history and language and find the author on
Sources & Notes
1 Scott, William Henry. Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine
Culture and Society. Quezon City. ADMU Press 1994 p. 252
Included among their [the Zambals’] deities, perhaps because of
Tagalog influence, was Bathala Mey Kapal, “whose false
genealogies and fabulous deeds they celebrated in certain tunes and
verses like hymns.” (San Nicolás, 1664, 420)
2 Sacks, David. Letter Perfect: The Marvelous History of Our
Alphabet from A to Z. Broadway Books, New York, 2003
3 See SpokenSanskrit.de: bhaṭṭāra भ"ार meaning noble lord.
4 Alcina, Francisco Ignacio. Historia de las islas e indios de Bisayas,
1668 3:35-37. Victor Baltazar transcription. University of
Chicago Philippine Studies Program 1962. In W.H. Scott
Barangay, 1994.
From these Borneans the Tagalogs learned their characters, and
from them the Visayans, so they call them Moro characters or
letters because the Moros taught them...
5 Morrow, Paul. Ang Baybayin: The Ancient Script of the
Philippines. 1999, revised 2002 www.mts.net/~pmorrow/
6 de Leon, Bayani Mendoza. Baybayin, the Ancient Script of the
Philippines: A Concise Manual. 1992
7 Ubaldo, Mary Ann. Baybayin’s Eye-Opening Exposition.
8 Daly, Perla Paredes. Bahala Meditation, A Personal Renewal of
Filipino Spiritual Practice. Originally published 06.27.03 at
9 de Leon, Bayani Mendoza. 1992 p. ix, x
Da Bathala Code • Sources & Notes
10 Tolentino, Guillermo. Ang Wika at Baybaying Tagalog. 1937. p.
11 Ibid p. 67
Maging ang ngalang Madagaskar ng pulong yaon ay pagagong
tawag sa matuwid na Tagalog na MAGDARAGAT, at ang mga
tao dahil sa katutubong hilig sa pag-inom ng alak ay parating
MGA LASING kata’t MALAGASI. [English transaltion by P.
12 Ibid. p.92
13 Ocampo, Ambeth R. “Tolentino and the Calatagan Pot,”
Inquirer.net. April 27, 2007.
14 Tolentino, Guillermo E. 1937. p.73
...kung bakit naging gayon ang mga hugis ay wala isa mang
mananalaysay, dalubwika o dalubtitik ang nakapagsabi ng tiyak o
pahapyaw mang paliwanag. Wala rin naman nakasulat ng tungkol
sa diwa at hubog na pinagtularan ng iba’t ibang hugis ng mga titik
ng BAYBAYING TAGALOG maliban sa nasirang Pedro A.
Paterno at Lope K. Santos. Maging ang dalawang Ginoong ito’y
wala rin namang nailarawan maliban sa B H L ng Bathala noong
una at ang U H A o uha ng bata ang ikalawa. Ano pa’t tigatlong
titik lamang sila at wala na. Sa isang sabi’y kung saan nagwakas
ang mga naunang nagsisulat ay doon naman kami nagsimula ng
ibang bagay na karugtong nguni’t lingid pa sa kaalaman ng madla.
[English translation by P. Morrow]
15 Paterno, Pedro A. La antigua civilización tagálog. 1887. Second
edition as La antigua civilización de Filipinas, Manila, 1915.
16 Mojares, Resil B. Brains of the Nation: Pedro Paterno, T.H. Pardo
de Tavera, Isabelo de los Reyes and the production of modern
knowledge. Quezon City. Ateneo de Manila University Press,
Da Bathala Code • Sources & Notes
17 Schumacher, John N. The Making of a Nation: essays on
nineteenth-century Filipino nationalism. Quezon City, ADMU
1991. p. 107
18 Paterno, Pedro A. 1915. pp. 106 & 107
19 Ibid p. 107
En este cuento ó tradición de la palabra dalaga vemos la fundación
del Bathalismo.
20 Ibid. p. 259
La palabra baybayin viene de baibai, ó babai, ó babae, ... que
significa hembra ó generadora, presentada por la figura b
imitación de la forma exterior del órgano genital feminino, así
como el carácter l correspondiente á la letra latina L, es signo de
lalaque (macho) ... y es dibujo ó copia del órgano sexual del varón.
21 Ibid. p. 33
En la escritura tagálog, la H se escribe imitando el zic-zac del rayo
que, desprendiéndose del alto Cielo, ilumina la oscuridad del la
Tierra, así: h
22 Ibid p. 34
Ahora bien; en la antigua escritura tagala del nombre de Dios
bhl se observa que la primera letra b que simboliza á la
Mujer, y la tercera l simbolizando al Hombre, están unidas por
h luz, espíritu, símbolo de Dios.
23 Ibid p. 259 footnote (3)
Los dos signos bl de hembra y macho, unidos por h símbolo
de la luz, forma el nombre de Dios. bhl (Bathala) que significa
Generador ó Creador de todo lo que existe en el Universo.
24 Rizal, Jose. “Rizal, Berlin, 29 March 1887.” The Rizal
Blumentritt Correspondence, Volume I, 1886-1889 National
Historical Institute, 1992. p. 70. Original handwriting
reproduced on unnumbered pages between pp. 65 & 67.
25 Mojares, Resil B. 2006. p. 15.
26 Paterno, Pedro A. quote from La Solidaridad IV p. 517 taken
from Mojares, Resil B. 2006. p. 54
Da Bathala Code • Sources & Notes
27 Rizal, National Historical Institute, 1992. p. 69.
28 Chirino, Pedro. Relación de las Islas Filipinas. The Philippines in
1600, Historical Conservation Society. [Publication]. Manila,:
Historical Conservation Society; Bookmark, exclusive
distributor, 1969. p. 60
Entre los cuales hacen principal y superior de todos: á quien los
Tagalos llaman Bathala Mei-Capal, que quiere decir el dios
fabricador, ó hacedor; y los Bisayas Laon, que denota antiguedad.
Among [their gods] they hold one to be the greatest and above all
the others, called by the Tagalog Bathala Mei-Capal, meaning the
creator or maker god, and by the Bisayas Laon, which denotes